They are scattered in different cities. If you did find it, you’d just think it was another tree on the street. But his journey was very long. So much so that they left our planet and returned. They are the trees that were seeds in space.
Seeds and a bible
Apollo 14 was the third manned mission to land on the moon. Astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Edgard Mitchell were on board. They ran a science station to collect moon samples. But also a microfilm Bible, the first verse of Genesis in sixteen languages, a golf club, two balls and five hundred seeds.
This mission is remembered in the collective imagination. This memory is supported by the image of Commander Shepard playing golf on the moon. But many don’t know any other interesting detail. Roosa orbited the moon thirty-four times with the botanical charge.
With such a unique experiment, American scientists wanted to study the weightlessness of seeds. The possible harmful effects of radiation on plants were investigated.
The lunar module pilot had long had a preference for seeds. He was a “smoke sweater,” that is, a firefighter who plunged parachutes into forest fires. He worked on the first line of defense.
Samples from five different trees were selected for the Apollo 14 mission. Redwood, American Sycamore, Douglas Fir, and American Sweet Gum. After landing, the seeds, like the rest of the crew, were in quarantine.
Before the end of the quarantine, the container that contained them was fragmented and all of the seeds were mixed together. Eventually they were planted and over four hundred plants sprouted from them. They have been donated to schools, universities, and government agencies. All of them are known as “moon trees”.
Trees that were seeds in space traveled across many continents. At this point in time, the exact locations of more than fifty moon trees are known. The vast majority are in the United States. But there are specimens in Brazil, Japan and Switzerland.
One of them is a western banana that greets visitors to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The most adorable of them all is an American sycamore maple. It was transferred to the grave of astronaut Stuart Roosa when he died in 1994.